Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Survival of the cutest


A “noted naturalist” has suggested letting the panda die out:

Conservationists should “pull the plug” on giant pandas and let them die out, according to BBC presenter and naturalist Chris Packham.

“Here’s a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac,” Packham told Radio Times magazine.


With some scientists, the panda has suffered backlash since at least Stephen Jay Gould’s book “The Panda’s Thumb,” in which Gould complained that the animal, which is capable of a far more diverse diet, is dying out because it insists on eating only bamboo leaves. There’s a price to be paid for being picky, and recently conservationists have been picking up that tab.


I greatly doubt that’s going to stop any time soon. In the war for survival, the panda has the best survival tool:  marketability. Despite what some over-educated eggheads might make of its irresponsible overindulgence, the panda’s cuteness is irrefutable. For that reason and for all that that entails — in World Wildlife Fund brochures and children’s plush toys and effusions like this one — the panda will be here long after the chacoan peccary has slunk from existence.

2 Responses to “Survival of the cutest”

  1. Barry Says:

    I thought the panda eats shoots and leaves (or eats, shoots and leaves… I forget which).

    I’ve never read “The Panda’s Thumb,” although I am generally a fan of Gould’s books. I’m surprised that anyone would seriously argue that an animal DESERVES to be relegated to the evolutionary dustbin for any reason. After all, who are we to judge another species? One might make the argument, based on the way we behave in the world and how poorly we take care of ourselves and each other, that human beings are destined for extinction and deservedly so… in fact, if no one else has called for it (and I KNOW they have), I’ll go on record and say, “Human beings are wastoids: the sooner they’re gone, the better.”

    He who is without sin…

  2. Dan Says:

    The Panda is definitely an evoluitionary dead-ender, but then so are newspapers, oldtime radio shows and books under 300 pages, all of which are worth preserving… mostly.

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